Hello again, it’s Green Warrior master training week in Karamoja, Uganda, and the 33 Green Warriors have battled flood, raiders, broken bridges and hellish roads to get back to Abim for their one week training. After 2 weeks on the job in the field, they have returned for a weeks training in nursery construction and a debrief on their first field activities. Green Warrior nursery takes shape
I’m worried about some of the Green Warriors getting here in time. I only have 6 days and I’m sure some of them aren’t going to get here for the first 3 days. I organize all the materials before the week starts. Poles, bamboo, cement, sand, bricks, tools and composted Kraal manure as well as a truck load of top soil. As predicted, the Green Warriors arrive in drips and drabs. I don’t let it worry me as we begin nursery construction with my 5 person training staff and the Green Warriors join in as they arrive. This is the best way to handle the start of any course in the 3rd world as punctuality is a white mans thing. I always joke with the Ugandans that a Ugandan watch should just have one hand and 2 times, Day and Night… We work like maniacs during the morning hours because the rains come after lunch. One team is putting up the frame from bush poles another team is splitting bamboo, while the remaining team breaks up the lumpy ground and rakes it flat. Its a full moon and I feel the effect on the Green warriors. If you ever want to finish off a project, the full moon gives the right stimulis for the group to get it done. We grow our crops by moon phases and I use moon phases to grow infrastructure projects!
The nursery is near completion. I’m conducting classroom training on nursery theory. Its pretty standard stuff. Potting mix ratios, when to water, as well as daily, weekly and monthly maintenance. A nursery this size should produce 20,000 tree seedlings of planteable size 3 times a year (that’s trees that grow products or have a use for the community). This size is perfect for schools or community based organizations. If I’ve done it right I will see copy cat nurseries spring up around Uganda. So far I’ve seen some pretty pathetic excuses for nurseries. This construction is made from 100% locally sourced materials. The shade is created by bamboo splits nailed horizontally onto bush pole beams. I need seed and the budget is small to make this project happen. I buy 8 beers and 4 cokes. I divide the Green Warriors up into 3 groups. I give each groups 2 sacks and tell them they have 2 hours to go into the village and get useful tree seed. The group that gets the most seed and the most diverse range of seed wins the beer. They all rush off like madmen possessed to win that prize which cost me $11 USD.
A couple of hours later the first group arrives with 2 sacks full of bounty. I draw 3 circles on the concrete floor and each groups unloads their seed into the circle and sorts it out for counting. I see moringa, pomegranite, acacia, lemon, lime, mango, soursop, kei apple, shea nut and many others I’ve never seen before. The three teams between them brought in 38 different types of tree seed and enough seed to plant out 3 nurseries and all for $11. Good strategy. I announce the winner and hand out the beer prize. The team members each get half a beer and a few sips of coke. We spend the rest of the afternoon sorting the seeds and storing it in a huge plastic drum to protect them from vermin.
Green Warriors tools
The nursery job is going well except for the lack of tools. All the tools I’ve obtained from local suppliers are dodgy quality and most of them have broken. This is one of the biggest problems here in Uganda. Money is spent on helping people become self sufficient but the tools only last a few days to a few months. Some examples are machetes, or pangas as they are called here. I buy 5 pangas at the local hardware. Within 4 hours the wooden handles have all come off. I tell the students these are the most expensive machettes in the world. They look puzzled. Yep, Chinese low-quality machetes cost $2 each. Because they are crap and there is no other machete available, the user has to buy a new one each day. Thats over a $1000 a year in pangas! I hold up a Brazillian machete I bought in Kampala. This one costs $10 usd, an unheard of price for a machete here. I tell them this one will last over a year if it used each day. Its heavy duty good quality and holds its sharp edge well. It is much cheaper at the end of the year to buy the $10 machette. They finally get it. The wheel barrows have no bearings and use only an axle inside a piece of pipe which quickly fills with sand. The barrows squeak and as the axle becomes bound with sand, the barrows become harder to push. The trays are made of light pressed metal, very light metal. The best barrow I could source from Kampala lasted 3 months. The list goes on. A hand saw costs $3. It cuts about as well as a kids play saw in Australia. I found a $7 saw in Kampala that eats wood for breakfast. The carpenters are amazed. The hammers cost $3 and fly apart on the second day.
When it comes to watering cans, there is two kinds of shit. Plastic shit that lasts a few months and then splits, then there is locally made tin watering cans which leak so badly you dont have to tip the water out, just hold the leaking can over the garden. It’s so frustrating trying to make any projects work with crap tools. It’s even worse to deliver tools to communities that are of the same quality. I have made sure that most of the tools delivered on this project are of proper quality and design. I sourced a steel handled shovel for the community tool banks. It’ll last a year no worries. The feedback from the people is the shovels are a big hit. I sourced hoes, hoe/forks, and african axe heads made from high quality steel. They are also a hit. The wheelbarrows are definatley shit.I dont even bother with machettes. Imagine being a farmer and having to dig your field with nothing but a sharp stick. It happens here. Imagine when you do have tools you have to spend a third of your time fixing those tools. It happens here. A much needed project here is setting up a tool buisness to make local pangas, hoes, forks, etc with light steel handles and good quality heads. A blacksmith could be employed to make a range of local machettes/pangas as well as knives and sickles. Imagine the amount of aid money spent on crappy low grade tools and low grade food. On the books it looks like theyy are helping the farmers and communities, but in reality they just delivered junk. It proves nobody really cares at the higher levels. All this common sense is an alien language to many NGO’s and the UN. We finish the week with a session in the training hut on the future of Green Warriors in Karamoja. I tell them other people in other countries will soon begin to start up their own Green Warriors. I also tell them in the future, the next thing they’ll need will be a Green Warrior Field Academy to train Karamajong trainers and showcase their working models of sustainable agriculture and appropriate technology. They all agree. They tell me the villagers are picking up the skills. Gardens are happening everywhere. The villagers want more seed, more tools, more Green Warriors. They tell me it’s working! Its almost time to leave. The cook has baked me a cake with Steve written across the top in icing. I slice it up into 34 pieces and we each get a slice. We have our cake and eat it too! We do one final big African clap. I release the Green Warriors back into the villages and communities that need them to lead the way to self reliance. The Green Warriors are coming. I love these guys! I’ll miss them until next time…